Anatomy of a Bull Fight

Anatomy of a Bull Fight

On Saturday, August 21st, Dewey Beach will be a sea of white shirts, red bandanas, Hemingway lookalikes, and lots of jovial vibes as the Running of the Bull makes its triumphant return. Michael McDonnell, one of the prolific founders of the original event more than 24 years ago, is looking forward to all the chaotic pomp and circumstance that goes along with the event.

He says, “Part of the fun of the event itself is that it all happens in relative real time. For example, every year, it comes down to the event, and someone is like ‘Do we have a sword for the matador?’ Which we never do.” This year, in an epic bout of forethought, he says he borrowed a wooden saber from his 12-year-old son, but does this year’s matador, Sam Calagione, have a clear advantage for this reason? Not necessarily.

In the matter of deciding who will reign victorious in the Big Ring each year, it is settled just moments before the fight occurs in a stunning combination of choreography and beer shooters. After the crowd of imbibed bull-centric athletes are chased down the shoreline and back into the Starboard, Kenny Garfinkle, the unofficial official referee, Michael McDonnell, DJ Smoky, the two men in the bull costume, and the matador gather at Gary’s across the street.

It is there that the people playing the Bull chug water furiously in preparation for the final event, and the rest of them do beer shooters while they map out the fight, which will commence within minutes. McDonnell says his most memorable moment of Bull Fight choreography happened the year Ryan Philipe came to be the matador, two years ago.

“Garfinkle, Smoky and Philipe were standing around talking about the matador making passes, and I wander up casually and say, ‘Those are called Veronicas— when the bull runs by and the matador swings his cape.’ So Ryan says, ‘Okay, great, I will do three Veronicas and then the Bull will hit me and I go down.’” McDonnell laughs to recall, “And at that point, I said I had fulfilled one of my biggest dreams, which was to direct Ryan Philipe, and he looked at me like I was crazy!”

What will happen when Calagione goes up against the Bull this year in the ring? It can only be decided up to the minute, in true Bull Run style, over beer shooters and metered topsy-turvy happiness at Gary’s. But you can be sure that this year’s event will be one for the record books, if only because it is actually coming to fruition.

McDonnell says, “My mantra this year was just ‘I want this to happen!’ Because next year is our 25th anniversary, and I want to blow it out of the water. This year, we are just grateful for this return to normalcy.”

The Starboard line will form bright and early, and the main event goes down at 2PM. McDonnell and the whole Starboard staff are looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces and hosting the event which will raise money for the Dewey Beach Fire Department. For more information, visit

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